Premier League • England

Klopp blasts Neville criticism of key Liverpool man; claims ‘outstanding’ backup can be clone of world-class starter

Jurgen Klopp, manager of Liverpool during the FA Cup match between Nottingham Forest and Liverpool at the City Ground, Nottingham

Jurgen Klopp has issued a strong response to the latest criticism Trent Alexander-Arnold has been facing from Gary Neville.

Alexander-Arnold was named in England’s World Cup squad on Thursday, despite some doubts over whether Gareth Southgate would want to take him to Qatar.

Although he has built up plenty of credit for his achievements with Liverpool, concerns remain over Alexander-Arnold being a defensive liability.

In fact, prior to the squad announcement, ex-England right-back Neville warned that Southgate had no reason to rely on the Liverpool man at the World Cup.

Neville told Sky Sports: “His brilliance going forward is out of this world. But we’re talking about knockout football. Whether England win or lose in a World Cup is going to be down to moments. A mistake – concentration. In this moment in time, I can’t see how Gareth can go into a knockout game in a World Cup playing Trent Alexander-Arnold.”

Southgate went on to select Alexander-Arnold in his squad, so the 24-year-old might have a point to prove.

First of all, he has one more game at club level to see to with Liverpool before the break. The Reds are due to host Southampton on Saturday.

Speaking in view of that game, Klopp has told a press conference that there doesn’t even need to be a discussion about Alexander-Arnold’s defending.

The Liverpool manager said: “I heard Gary Neville said something. But he’s now 24 and won quite a few finals, important games where you have to defend against world class players.

“He was always there, defending well. I don’t know why we have this discussion.”

Alexander-Arnold is someone whom Klopp has been able to depend on, and that should continue.

On the opposite side, Klopp also addressed the balance Liverpool have been looking for on the left. Andy Robertson remains useful at left-back, but there has been a changing of the guard ahead of him.

Summer signing Darwin Nunez, brought in to lead the line, has been shifting to a wider position recently, in place of Luis Diaz.

According to Klopp, the attacker might have to improve his defensive attributes – which was something Mane excelled at – to help out more.

He explained: “Robbo played a long time with Sadio Mane. Luis covered that space. It’s different.

“Darwin is different as well. We know Darwin can be a real threat offensively. Defensively there is room for improvement.”

Klopp makes Kelleher claim

Another player earning attention for his efforts in the defensive phase is goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher. He has largely had to act as Alisson Becker’s deputy, but took his chance to shine in midweek.

Kelleher made some crucial saves to help Liverpool win a penalty shootout in their Carabao Cup tie with Derby County.

There have been doubts over whether Liverpool can keep him on the bench for much longer, or if they may have to sell him.

But Klopp is grateful to have him at his disposal for now, claiming he is a perfect fit and is just like Alisson.

Klopp said: “He is an outstanding goalie. He’s our goalie. That’s great.

“We need a goalie of his quality. If there is something to talk about, we will talk. It’s clear he has an ambition to be a number one.

“Our style suits him. He’s like the blonde version of Ali!”

It will likely be Alisson to resume the responsibility of guarding Liverpool’s goal against Southampton.

READ MORE – Eight of Jurgen Klopp’s biggest transfer regrets during his time at Liverpool: Mane, Keita and more…